Several years ago I heard about the value of reading Shakespeare with my children. To me, it seemed a little crazy! I mean, Shakespeare? I didn’t have the best impression of those dry and boring plays.
Later as I began to delve into all that was included in a Charlotte Mason education, and the apparent benefits behind reading Shakespeare, I decided we’d give it a try.
First, this book was recommended. It was sort of a “meet and greet” for Shakespeare.
I was pleasantly surprised by the response. My five year old was particularly amazed by the Globe Theater. He began to pick up other references to Shakespeare, and always noticed any other structure shaped like the Globe Theatre.
Then we began to read Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb. People were mildly interested. They really perked up at our second play in Tales. It was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I decided it was time to go for a whole play. I thrifted some Folger Editions so that everyone would have their own copy.
I got a boost of confidence when I came across Nancy’s blog posts on how they read Shakespeare. Her posts encouraged me to keep going, to push through the rough parts, and just enjoy it with my kids.
A few weeks into reading aloud the real, unabridged Shakespeare with an 11, 8, and 6 year old, something wonderful happened.
We started to laugh. A lot.
I was a little shocked. Who knew we’d have fun together reading Shakespeare, of all things?
While we were enjoying ourselves, we were able to be oblivious to how quickly our vocabulary grew. We didn’t even realize that our read-aloud skills were also growing by leaps and bounds. I don’t remember when we started to notice the satire or double meanings in his lines. We didn’t over analyze the characters, we just enjoyed them.
Then we began to notice things about them. Lady Macbeth, for instance. Whew. She tops the list of “What not to marry”.
We laughed over the lines, some of them were hilarious! We laughed over the accents the kids came up with. (I laughed over them arguing over who would get certain parts. Although some days it’s not quite so funny…) Even the 6 year old was begging to read a line or two before the school year was over. He never missed a reading, and joined in with all the hilarity.
We fell for Shakespeare through giggling over the clever lines, and having fun together.
It was an atmosphere of camaraderie. The more we persevered, the more we enjoyed it, and the more we noticed the depth. Now I hear them say (at ages 15, 12, and 10), “Oh. That’s a really good line. I think I’ll put that in my quote book”.
You might be wondering if every day is filled with frivolity and Shakespeare plays?
But when I’m determined that something is good for us, then we do it, on the good days and the bad. (No, we don’t read Shakespeare every day!) Some days we giggle, and some days we don’t. But isn’t that the story of our lives?
Although we fell for Shakespeare over A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we had the most fun with The Taming of the Shrew. Wow. That was funny! Not funny like a comedian. The sort of funny that sneaks up on you, the kind you have to sort through the hard bits to find. The kind of funny that comes from years of reading aloud together, and noticing the same things. The kind of funny that makes this way of educating seem worth all of the time and effort…
The kind of funny we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.
“We probably read Shakespeare in the first place for his stories, afterwards for his characters, the multitude of delightful persons with whom he makes us so intimate that afterwards, in fiction or in fact, we say, ‘She is another Jessica,’ and ‘that dear girl is a Miranda’; ‘She is a Cordelia to her father,’ and such a figure in history, ‘a base Iago.’
To become intimate with Shakespeare in this way is a great enrichment of mind and instruction of conscience. Then, by degrees, as we go on reading this world-teacher, lines of insight and beauty take possession of us, and unconsciously mould our judgments of men and things and of the great issues of life.”